I'm delighted that Andrew John Rainnie, author of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits, has agreed to answer some questions about his writing.
Why did you write Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits?
Spirits of Vengeance started life out as a screenplay that I had to write while I was studying Screenwriting at Bournemouth University in 2004. I wanted to write something grand and epic like Lord of the Rings, but it soon ballooned beyond the remit of my course, so I ended up writing a small, Scottish crime thriller titled Safeguard.
But Spirits stuck with me, and I started to develop the story as a book, but it was a few years later before it really took the shape and style it has now. I had a very empty concept, but when I realised that the protagonist should be Kamina, and not her older brother Kaedin, it really came into focus for me. One of the best rules of screenwriting, and any writing I guess, is that the main character should be the person with the most to lose, and that was Kamina. Once I made it about her, it became something more personal and character-driven. I was no longer writing a fantasy book for the sake of doing something big and epic, but I had a great character with real emotional depth. I wrote it because of her.
What kind of reader would enjoy Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits
That’s a tough one. I guess it is what we would consider Young Adult because Kamina is herself a young adult (she is 14). But many of my friends that have read it are in their thirties and forties, and they have really engaged with the material. I think anyone who likes epic fantasy will enjoy it, but the themes of Spirits is universal. It deals with issues relevant to a modern audience: racism, sexism, endless wars fought over religious beliefs. The core concept always comes back to Kamina, it is her story as she discovers truths about her life, but also truths about herself, and the courage she does not realise she has. It is about finding the strength of character to stand up for what you believe in, and I think everyone can relate to that.
How did you develop your characters?
The initial idea was a young boy who dreams of going off on an adventure with a famous warrior having his wish granted. And it sucked. There was no drama there. So I went back to square one and looked at the story, asking myself “Who has the most to lose?” The answer was Kamina, who had been a bit younger in the original story. I made her older, but retained what made her great; she starts off very timid, and wants to stay within the safe confines of her home. To really reinforce this dramatic point, I changed them from humans to elves. In the world of Spirits of Vengeance, the elves have fought many wars with the humans, but around 200 years from the event in this book, they retreated to the safehaven of Elgrin Forest, removing themselves from the world. This means that when Kamina is forced to go on this journey, against her will, she is not only leaving her home, but in a sense her entire world, to explore somewhere that is largely alien to her.
Once I knew who she was, I was able to write the other characters around her. Kaedin, the former protagonist, became her troubled older brother. He wants to be the first elven Ranger, a nomad warrior race that I saw as like the Jedi. However, he is also romantically linked to a human girl, and he’s torn between these two choices. Kaedin’s journey is, in a sense, the mirror opposite of Kamina’s, and I really enjoyed crafting that parallel. When they reach the continent of Zalestia, they encounter the warrior princess Jazintha, who again is a reflection of Kamina in a different way. She is outwardly brave and fearless, and prides herself on that reputation, but inside she is an emotional wreck, seeking the approval of her hard-hearted father, Zahyr Zaleed Khan. Again, her story is about finding the strength from within and having the will to act upon it.
The Ishkava Ranger, Callaghan Tor started out as a very empty character, a pale imitation of Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. I can’t really talk about his development without ruining the plot, but he went from being a typical warrior archetype to someone who Kamina initially hates, but who she comes to adore and respect.
What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?
Steve Spielberg. I’m a child of the 1980s, and the first film I ever saw (that I remember) was Back To The Future, which he produced. My mum had sat me down to watch it and I was entranced by this amazing, sharp, witty story. Then I saw ET and Jurassic Park and I knew I wanted to be a storyteller. There have been hundreds of other influences over the years, but Mr. Spielberg is definitely the one who left the biggest imprint on my creativity. I would love to work with him one day.
Are you working on any new writing at the moment?
I’ve just finished writing a trilogy of short films, called The Illuminant Midnight Project. I have a storyboard artist currently drawing scenes out so that we can launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the budget to go and film them next year. I have also been hired to write a sports drama feature film set in India, which is quite exciting because it’s not a genre I have ever attempted before.
And I am already writing the sequel to Stone of Spirits, which is called Spirits of Vengeance: The Assassin of Araneque.
Wow Andrew! What a lot of writing projects you've got on at the moment. Thank you so much for taking time out to answer my questions. And, good luck with the launch of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits on November 14th.
My review of Spirits of Vengeance: The Stone of Spirits is here and Andrew John Rainnie's website is here.